TF2 character design: reflecting after the fact

In my intro write-up, I mentioned that I wanted to discuss the character designs of Team Fortress 2 as an exercise to strengthen my own skills in terms of evaluating design, and creating my own characters.

Links to each of the writeups:

Pyro / Spy / Engineer / Soldier/ Medic/ Demoman / Scout / Sniper / Heavy

Now that I’ve completed analyses of all the mercenaries’ character designs, I’d like to take a moment to reflect back on the experience.

To borrow a quote from Futurama: “When you do things right, people won’t be sure you’ve done anything at all.

This quote can absolutely be applied to anything, including art and design. If there were mistakes or features that generally didn’t mesh in the art, they would be noticeable even to the untrained eye. Because the character designs that I’ve examined are so carefully thought out, we don’t particularly notice anything outstanding about them. They work so well that it’s easy to take them for granted. Sometimes it takes a long, extensive look to really pick out what makes something so great. Because I’ve taken the time to carefully examine each character, I feel like I better appreciate the artistic decisions that went into them.

I’ve definitely learned a lot while doing this, as well. I’ve found that even seemingly needless details can be vital to a design and wind up having a huge effect on it. Every single line, shape, and color is cautiously thought out by artists, scrapped, and redone until it finally looks like a good product. What they choose to NOT include/rule out is just as important as what they do include. There could have been a hundred different directions the artists could go with each character, but they filtered out the options that wouldn’t be the best, and explored the solutions that were left. That editing process is vital for artists—it makes for the best final outcome.

I also understand design better, especially tied into characters’ roles and personalities. Everything that goes into a character’s appearance should tie into the other aspects of that character. It should all “fit” together.

As I had previously stated, I fell in love with the characters simply because of their great design. And while I did deeply enjoy them before this exercise, I’ve now come to appreciate them far more, both in terms of just visual design and in terms of character as a whole. There’s a big difference between just kind of knowing you like the way something looks, and running through the entirety of a character’s appearance and trying to puzzle out as many design choices as you can while writing it down. Sometimes writing out the most simple observation led me to see something much more interesting about the characters.

I had great fun writing these, and I hope to periodically visit other characters’ designs as well, in the future! Thanks to the people who appreciated my posts!